Lessons from Liam
On July 25, 2011, Joshua Liam Davison was born. That little guy has made some big changes in our family. My daughter and son-in-law are now parents. My boys are uncles. My mom is a great grandmother. My camera is about to burn up from taking so many pictures. The poor little boy believes that he’s been born into a world where a bright flash of light occurs every five seconds. The two hour drive from Travelers Rest to Monetta is suddenly no problem. My wife and I have changed our preferred names from “Dee” and “Linda” to “Papa Dee” and “Nama.”
I wasn’t surprised that little Liam changed our family, but I was surprised by how much he changed my heart. Liam’s birth, and these two weeks that we’ve shared with him, has been a time when God has spoken to me as He has at very few times in my Christian journey. That very little boy has taught me some big lessons. He’s been like a little angel bringing messages from God for me.
This morning, I want to share with you a few of the lessons I’ve learned from Liam, ways that God has taught me and touched me through him.
You Are a Miracle
I’ve heard many people say that they believe in miracles. I’ve heard a good number say that they’ve seen a miracle. But the experience of Liam coming into this world took me beyond believing in or seeing miraculous things. His birth taught me that every person can look into the mirror and say, “You are a miracle.”
Psalm 139 is a song through which the singer praises God for the miracle of his life.
(Psalm 139:13-14) For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
During her pregnancy, Elizabeth would send me updates on what was happening to Liam as he grew and got closer and closer to birth. As I read what science has learned about the growth of a child before birth, I thought of those words again and again, “you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Where do you see the glory of God, the evidence of His power and His purpose? You might see the glory of a sunrise. You may look into a cloudless night sky and see the countless stars He calls by name. You may gaze upon the mountains, dressed up in fall colors by countless leaves changing at His time. Or you may, like a friend of mine, say that he no longer says that there are no atheists in the fox holes of a battlefield. When he became a father, he said, “there are no atheists in delivery rooms.”
But little Liam reminded me that every human being wonderfully made by God, knit together by His hand, can look into the mirror and say, “I am a miracle.” You are not merely the result of a process. You’re not an accident. In God’s mind, you weren’t a surprise. You are a mighty act of His power, His creative purpose, and His love. And the same God who did a mighty thing in creating you can do might things through you. You can live in the confidence and purpose that come from knowing, “I am a miracle.”
Liam taught me something else the night he came into this world…
Pain is the Price of New Life
The day that Liam was born, Linda and I arrived at the hospital and went to her room to visit with her and Josh. Every two or three minutes, Elizabeth would have a contraction, a passing moment of tension and discomfort, but between those contractions, she visited with us and talked about many things, posed for pictures, and even joked about becoming a mother. But in a few hours, the hurt she was feeling became far more intense and came more often. I saw the look of pain written on her face and the fear that comes from hurting like you’ve never hurt before. The time came for all of us to leave the room, leaving Elizabeth with her husband, her nurse, and the challenge of enduring the pain she was feeling.
As excited as I was about becoming a grandfather, I spent the next several hours pacing up and down hallways, questioning anyone who came out of Elizabeth’s room, and even putting my ear up against the door to hear any clue that could tell me how my girl was holding up in her battle with pain. A few times, a doctor or nurse would open the door to leave, only to find me in the doorway with my ear turned toward the door. I didn’t care. I was worried about my daughter. Everything inside me wanted her pain to end. For hours, we heard the voices of doctors and nurses coaching her, we heard her voice as she fought the good fight, and then, at 7:21 p.m., almost 14 hours after she had begun, my daughter’s pain turned to joy, the joy of a new life. Outside in the hallway, we who had been listening to Elizabeth’s struggle heard something new, a little voice crying out to announce his entrance into the world. I hugged Linda and we remembered three such days in our own marriage. But now we felt the joy of our daughter’s pain leading to the miracle of a new life.
Childbirth is one of the most painful and dangerous experiences a woman can know. I wish that it were different. I wished it a hundred times that night. But in God’s plan, pain is the price of new life. It’s true for a woman giving birth. It’s also true for any person asking God for a new beginning.
Liam’s birth taught me that, for any of us, pain is the price of new life. So many people want a new start, a new beginning, a deeper faith, a greater faithfulness, victory over a struggle, joy on the other side of weeping. But what we must realize is that we won’t hear the sweet sound of a new life unless we are willing to endure the pain that new life demands; the pain of honesty, the pain of confession, of heart-broken repentance, of letting go of the old in order to make room for the new, of enduring a night of darkness in order to see the glory of a new day.
The Apostle Paul tells the Galatians that he is bearing great pain with the purpose of seeing Christ more alive in their hearts and in their church. He writes, in Galatians 4:19,
(Galatians 4:19) My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…
Many times, over the past few months, I have asked God why I’ve had to hurt so badly—why the people I love have hurt so badly. I don’t know that I’ll ever understand the reason for this pain, not on this side of heaven, but I can find hope in the result of this pain. By God’s grace and power, my pain and your pain, can be the beginning of a new life.
When Elizabeth’s time of hurting was over, when we heard Liam’s voice and then got to hold him and see him, he taught me another great spiritual lesson.
We’ll Understand When We See Him Face to Face
ILL: Several times during Elizabeth’s pregnancy, she sent me ultrasound images of Liam. I don’t know how well you interpret an ultrasound image. I find most of them to be like a two-year-old’s picture that they draw in Sunday School. I look at it and say, “Wow, that’s amazing! Tell me about it. (Which is a nice way of saying, “What in the world am I looking at?”)
Sometimes I could be guided to see Liam in the picture, other times I had to trust that others saw things I just couldn’t see. But all of that changed the first time I held him in my arms and looked into his little face. That face-to-face moment revealed more to me that I had seen in all of the moments before. Later, I returned to those ultrasound pictures and, now, some of them made perfect sense, especially one in which I could trace the features of his face and see that those hazy images were, in fact, my Liam all along.
In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says that our journey through life is that very same way. He writes,
(1 Corinthians 13:12) Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
In Paul’s day a mirror was nothing more than a shiny piece of metal. The reflection it gave was often dark and distorted. We don’t see life so clearly while we’re living it. We want to see the plan, the purpose, the meaning; we want to see Christ working in the joys and challenges we face each day. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of him in that poor reflection our human hearts can perceive. Other times we don’t what we’re seeing or what it means. We just have to live by faith.
But one day, we will see Jesus face to face. When we do, all of those poor reflections, all of those small glimpses of His grace and His glory, will make perfect sense. We will look back and see that He was there, in every step we took, every tear we shed, every burden we bore, even every question we asked.
When our faith becomes sight, we will see that Jesus was with us every step of the way.
One more lesson my Liam has written on my heart;
God Wants You to Know How Much He Loves You
I had held little Liam for the briefest moment when I heard myself telling him how much I love him. Even though he’s a genius baby, as we call him, I don’t think that he could see me clearly or understand the meaning of the sounds my voice was making. But I didn’t give up. I’ll never give up. I’ll always tell him and, hopefully, show him that he has someone in his life, one of many, who look upon him and feel nothing but love. And though I don’t want to rush him in growing up—he’ll change too quickly, I know—I look forward to the day that he knows, truly knows that I love him and he, in his own childlike way, can love me back.
Paul wanted the Ephesians to have that same kind of experience with God. Listen to his prayer for them in Ephesians 3:17b-19,
(Ephesians 3:17b-19) And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
I want you to know how much Christ loves you. I want you to build your life upon that confidence, “being rooted and established in love.” I want you to see how big his love for you truly is, “how wide and long and high and deep.” And I want you to know His love, not just as an idea in your head, or the right answer to a question someone asks you in church, but as an experience that changes you from the inside out, that fills you with the presence and power and peace of God.
As long as you have been in this world, God has been telling you how much He loves you. For a long time, you didn’t recognize His voice, much less understand what He was saying. But God wants this to be the day when you know His love, when you experience the love that gives you life, eternal life; the love that fills you with God’s spirit.
Have you heard His voice?
Have you understood how much He loves you?
He’s shown you most clearly in Jesus, the One who died to take away the sin that stands between you and God, the One who rose from the dead to say, “Love has won.”
This can be your day to know how much He loves you.